Leadership and Advocacy Plan Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Leadership Theories

There are a number of theories of leadership that can be applied to my own personal development plan in counselling. I first look to servant leadership as a unique approach to leadership, wherein it is emphasized that the effect leader is one who facilitates greatness in others. The concept of servant leadership was developed by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s, and emphasizes the leader doing whatever is needed in order to ensure that everybody else can be at his or her absolute best (Greenleaf, 1977). Servant leaders are always the ones who are searching, listening and watching, so that they can learn about their organizations, the environment in which their organizations exist, and the people within their organizations. The servant leader then can make a determination about what is needed for the organization to thrive in that environment, but recognizes that one leader cannot succeed on his or her own. The best leaders, therefore, empower the people around them, and give those people what they need to drive the organization towards success.

Servant leadership is a powerful leadership paradigm because it highlights the moral aspect of leadership. Many leaders are charismatic, and derive power from that, but charisma and the ability to inspire followers are value-neutral traits. Servant leadership introduces and reinforces the idea that the leader also needs to be moral, and to inspire moral leadership in others. Thus, the servant leader is not just one who can inspire, and not just one with accepted leadership traits, but one who makes the people around him or her better, and who drives the organization to better things (Graham, 1991).

In the grand scope of leadership theory, servant leadership is something of an outlier. More traditional leadership theory typically focuses either on traits or on behaviors. One of the paradigms holds that a key difference is between transactional and transformational leadership, where the former emphasizes high levels of performance on routine tasks, while the latter emphasizes the transformation of some aspect of the organization. In counseling, while each situation is unique, the reality is that the organization is not being transformed -- the key to success is to have everybody within the organization performing at a high level as a matter of course. So transactional leadership theory is something that can be applied to the field of counseling. It is also worth noting that transformational leadership is ultimately ill-defined in terms of how one would go about implementing it (Yukl, 1999). Everybody wishes to be seen as a charismatic or transformational leader, because that is where the leadership rock stars are usually found, but the reality is that such concepts are ill-formed, difficult to apply, and not necessarily something that everybody is capable of. Transactional leadership, emphasizing everyday excellence, is a better theoretical fit with counseling.

Leader-member exchange theory (LMX) helps to explain how leadership works. The nature of communications between the leader and followers -- what is said, when, how often, and whether or not the communication is in-person or not -- matters in terms of the effect that leaders have on their followers (Howell & Hall, 1999). Thus, whatever style of leadership a person has, their exchanges will tend to be reflected in the performance of the followers. The style of leadership most appropriate for a situation is typically affected by the nature of the situation itself. Counseling is interesting in that each day is different, but overall organizations tend to be conservative, changing little year over year. That points to transactional leadership -- the ability to get followers to perform at a high level every day, despite the differences that each day has with respect to the clients and tasks to be performed. Performing a non-routine job at a high level involves the leader being able to distill the job down to key elements -- and these can be techniques or they can be attitudinal elements -- and ensuring that their followers are adhering to these. In other words, if a counseling leader can ensure that counselors are ready to work, compassionate, and highly knowledgeable every day, then they will likely have a sustainably high performance no matter what challenge the individual day throws at them.

It is not difficult to see how this manifests in counselor education. Counselors require leaders, not managers because there is no meaningful way that a leader can provide strict oversight into task performance; tasks are too discrete in this field. Thus, critical to the success of counselors is to ensure that they are trained and educated to a high level to begin with. Then, they will be at the very least, equipped to enjoy success on a daily basis in their job performance. So the counselor leader can apply this thinking to both the education and leadership components of counseling, by ensuring that each counselor or student has a high level of knowledge about professional standards, that they have the background information needed to manage even the most difficult situations, and that they have a high level of preparedness. Knowing what the professional standards are, knowing how to perform to those standards, and having the tools available to do so are all key success factors in counseling.

The latter point -- having the resources needed to succeed -- is also an element of servant leadership. A leader in counseling should be able and willing to provide the counselors with the resources -- educational, financial and emotional -- to perform their duties to a high level each and every day. If the leader provides these things, then they have done what they can to ensure performance. This points to a leadership style that incorporates elements of both servant leadership and transactional leadership, which is fine because these two theories are not mutually exclusive.

Self-Analysis

I believe that I am a natural servant leader. My interest in the counseling profession actually stems from my desire to help, and specifically to help by giving people the tools that they need to help themselves. That is the essence of servant leadership, and it is what attracted me to counseling in the first place. I have many of the traits and skills associated with servant leaders, in that I listen well, I want to help, I have genuine compassion and sympathy, I am supportive of others, and I am also quite patient and willing to work with people to help them through their problems. All of these contribute to the servant leadership environment.

Where I may be deficient in terms of servant leadership reflects back to what Graham (1991) wrote about having those inspirational capabilities. I have the moral dimension of what Graham wrote, to be sure, with a strong moral compass, but at the same time Graham emphasized that servant leaders can have a charismatic element in order to help inspire. While Yukl (1999) makes a valid point about charismatic leadership being notoriously tough to pin down, I think of it as something to the effect of you provide the kind of strong support that makes people want to work harder for you, knowing how hard you work for them. I deliver in that respect, even if I lack for fiery speeches and other so-called charismatic elements.

In terms of being able to be an effective transactional leader, I feel that I have many of the necessary tools. I am cerebral and analytical in nature, which means that I have the ability to analyze a situation, and determine what it needed in order to make that situation work. If somebody seems to be missing something in their work, I will be able to figure that out and work with them. These are both elements of both transactional and servant leadership. I am able to deliver consistent, and consistently high levels of day-to-day performance. I can coach and teach others to do the same, and in that respect have great mentorship qualities.

Situational leadership is a theory that leadership styles can be flexible, responding to different situations differently. This is reasonably easy for an analytical person to apply to practice, in that each situation is evaluated and the analytical leader can distinguish subtle differences between situations that are otherwise similar, and adapt an approach based on those subtle distinctions (Graeff, 1997). In that respect, I recognize that sometimes the leadership approach needs to change depending on the situation. So there are times when I recognize that the ability to inspire - or just generally to respond more acutely to emotional stimulus -- matters in counseling. Certainly as a leader it is sometimes valuable to portray a less analytic and detached manner, and that is something that I feel I can add to my leadership skills inventory. Links have been found between transformational leadership and emotional intelligence, for example (Barling, Slater & Kelloway, 2000).

Thus, I would like to add to my emotional intelligence, as I feel this would allow me to be more adaptable with respect to my leadership style, and therefore better equipped to…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Alper, S., Schloss, P. & Schloss, C. (1995). Families of children with disabilities in elementary and middle school: Advocacy models and strategies. Exceptional Children Vol. 62 (3) 261-270.

Barling, J., Slater, F. & Kelloway, E. (2000). Transformational leadership and emotional intelligence: An exploratory study. Leadership & Organization Development Journal. Vol. 21 (3) 157-161.

Boyle, C., Beardsley, R. & Hayes, M. (2004). Effective leadership and advocacy: Amplifying professional citizenship. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. Vol. 68 (3) 1-5.

Fielder, C. (2000). Making a difference: Advocacy competencies for special education professionals. Allyn & Bacon: Needham Heights, MA

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